Gender Intelligent

Bec Brideson shares her expertise on how gender intelligence can equip businesses to better understand today’s customer and discusses just how much influence the female economy can have on business.

After spending over two decades working as a creative in the notoriously male-dominated advertising industry, Bec Brideson has learned a thing or two about gender intelligence. Having climbed the career ladder throughout the 90s, when advertising was experiencing a boom in cultural popularity, Brideson became a creative director of an ad agency – a rare occurrence for a woman at that time. It wasn’t an easy road to the top, and Brideson talks openly about the realisation that if she was going to succeed, then she was going to have to look, and learn, through the eyes of a man. “I learned early on that my first audience was going to be my male creative director,” says Brideson. “And if I got my ideas through to him then I would get to make an ad.”

Through her years of experience working with brands, and their male-focused campaigns, Brideson recognised that women were fast becoming the untapped market. She decided to start her own agency, which would sensitively refocus businesses to look at things from a more gender intelligent perspective. “Over the years I learned that if brands wait for the advertising world to solve the problem of connecting with female consumers, then it’s too late,” she says. “I wanted to be the person introducing a new way of thinking into the core of a business so that the way that it thinks both internally and externally is in a gender intelligent way.”

Brideson developed this notion of gender intelligence in marketing even further for a period of over 12 years, and 18 months ago opened her consultancy firm as a way to introduce this new way of thinking about gender to businesses. Her recently launched book, Blind Spots: How To Uncover and Attract The Fastest Emerging Economy, delves into her methodology even further, using facts and figures to demonstrate the power of the female dollar. “There are a lot of statistics, information and research in the book,” she says. “When you’re trying to convince an audience that change needs to happen, you need all that information behind you. It’s not a feminist or even a female manifesto; it’s simply looking at ways to improve your returns.”

Brideson states that being gender intelligent is relevant for all businesses whether run by men or women and, in a nutshell, it all boils down to looking at your business through the eyes of a female and seeing if the ideas change. “According to the Harvard Business Review, women are now a $28 trillion global consumer economy, and the global bank put the entire global consumer economy at $35 trillion,” she says. “Other figures have shown that women are responsible for 90 percent of most purchases that come in through their front door and EY [formerly Ernst & Young] says that, by 2028, women will be responsible for 75 percent of discretionary spend.

“That’s the one that I find most interesting because it demonstrates that gender is going to continue to disrupt the way we all do business.”.

By looking at a business from a different, and more female, perspective, Brideson talks about how things can change – whether that’s through increased sales, a better relationship with the customer or even finding a new market. The AFLW (Australian Football League Women’s) is a great example of how applying a female lens to something so traditionally steeped in masculinity can reap huge rewards. Brideson worked with the AFLW helping the organisation not only understand segmentation, but also what a female brand culture looks like. “It’s been fantastic; the AFLW has had women turn up to see the women’s matches who had never been to a football game before,” she says.

“It wasn’t just the AFL fans who went and watched the women’s game. The AFLW attracted a whole new market and, with that, a whole new bunch of sponsorship, and a whole lot of brands wanting to be a part of it – all these and more from thinking differently.”

Since working with the AFLW, Brideson has been helping clients with diversity, inclusion and identifying the unconscious gender bias. “Everyone, from large business to SMEs (small- to medium-sized enterprises), is facing the same gender challenges,” she says. “If you looked at a company like Unilever, for example, which did a big study on gender and discovered that only two percent of women in its ads are portrayed as intelligent, you see that things have to change.

“I think that the tipping point is finally here, that we’re starting to say, well, gender does play a really big part, and advertising plays a really big role in how brands express who they are… So everyone’s got to come at the businesses with an awareness of gender intelligence.”

Bec Brideson’s first book Blind Spots: How To Uncover and Attract The Fastest Emerging Economy is out now. It can be found at Amazon, Booktopia and A&R or any good major book store.

Think your business is gender intelligent? Think again.

"I have an all-female team."

We get it. Leaders often think that because there are women in the business, it must all be OK. This isn’t necessarily true unless those women have the power to change the product, the way it’s marketed or, indeed, the culture surrounding the way things are done.

"We’re equal opportunity."

Through the 80s, when more women went out into the workforce, a lot of workplaces thought, ‘We have to treat men and women the same, so therefore, men and women are the same.’ With that came the reluctance to segment by gender, which can get in the way of making gender intelligent business decisions.

"My budget isn’t big enough."

A lot of businesses homogenise their audiences because they don’t think they have money or resources to think differently. However, if time is taken to do an internal audit to see where the majority of sales are coming from, then the marketing budget can focus on the right audience from the get-go.

"We’ve got a person to tackle this."

I have worked with organisations where a woman has been put in charge of making sure that there are female leadership groups, to show that the company is thinking about women. However, they’re not given any power, so it ends up just being a bit of a tick box. The lack of diversity and the lack of the female lens have to be seen as not just a female problem before change can happen.

"We’ve done ‘femvertising’."

A lot of brands out there are sending positive messages towards women, but there are also a few brands that think, ‘well, we’ll do an empowering message to women, and that will be it.’ While that’s effective and can get your business on the radar of female consumers, if it’s not authentic, or if the product doesn’t deliver, then you’ll lose them just as quickly. The change needs to come from the inside of the business.